Pennsylvania Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Commission Releases 2017 Ratings for Potential Judicial Candidates    

HARRISBURG (Jan. 30, 2017) – The Pennsylvania Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Commission (PBA JEC) today released its ratings of potential judicial candidates seeking election to the state’s appellate courts. In the 2017 election, voters will be filling one seat on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, four seats on the Superior Court of Pennsylvania and two seats on the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.

Each candidate requesting an evaluation by the PBA JEC is eligible to receive a rating of “Highly Recommended,” “Recommended” or “Not Recommended.” 

These are the PBA JEC’s ratings for the potential candidates:

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania – 

Highly Recommended

Justice Sallie Updyke Mundy, Tioga County
Judge Judith F. Olson, Allegheny County

Recommended
Judge Dwayne D. Woodruff, Allegheny County
 
Superior Court of Pennsylvania – 

Highly Recommended

Judge Emil A. Giordano, Northampton County
Judge Deborah A. Kunselman, Beaver County
Judge H. Geoffrey Moulton Jr., Montgomery County
Judge Paula A. Patrick, Philadelphia County
Judge Lillian Harris Ransom, Philadelphia County
Judge Carl A. Solano, Philadelphia County
Craig W. Stedman, Lancaster County

Recommended
Albert J. Flora Jr., Luzerne County
Judge Wade A. Kagarise, Blair County
Judge Maria C. McLaughlin, Philadelphia County
Judge Carolyn H. Nichols, Philadelphia County

Not Recommended
William F. Caye II, Allegheny County

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania – 

Highly Recommended

Judge Joseph M. Cosgrove, Luzerne County
James C. Crumlish III, Montgomery County
Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon, Delaware County
Matthew L. Wolford, Erie County

Recommended
Rep. Bryan E. Barbin, Cambria County
W. Timothy Barry, Allegheny County
Judge Ellen H. Ceisler, Philadelphia County
R. Todd Eagen, Lackawanna County
Paul N. Lalley, Allegheny County
Kenneth J. Suter, Dauphin County

Not Recommended
Irene McLaughlin Clark, Allegheny County

“The information issued by the PBA JEC is available to help voters select the candidates who are best suited to serve as knowledgeable, fair and impartial judges and justices on the appellate courts,” said Robert F. Morris of Montgomery County, chair of the PBA JEC. “The commission only recommends potential candidates who have the legal ability, experience, integrity and temperament to provide satisfactory or outstanding performance as appellate judges and justices.”  

The PBA JEC based its ratings for each candidate on a two-part evaluation process. Investigative panels conducted the first phase of the process, which included personal interviews with the candidates and with individuals who have had professional or personal dealings with them. Upon completion of the investigative process, the panels submitted confidential reports to the commission.
 
Upon receipt and review of the investigative panel’s report, the commission conducted the second phase of the evaluation process. The commission interviewed each candidate in Harrisburg, discussed his or her qualifications and reached consensus on each candidate’s rating.

The commission includes lawyer and non-lawyer members from across the state.

Serving with Morris in the leadership of the PBA JEC is Berks County lawyer Heidi B. Masano as vice chair and Erie County lawyer Steven E. (Tim) Riley Jr. as immediate past chair. 

Lawyer members include A. Harold Datz of Philadelphia County, Richard A. Estacio of Montgomery County, Stephanie F. Latimore of Dauphin County, Thomas S. Lee of Dauphin County, C. Edward S. Mitchell of Lycoming County, Kimberly Denean Moses of Allegheny County, Denise C. Pekelnicky of Erie County, Howard Alan Rothenberg of Lackawanna County and Su Ming Yeh of Philadelphia County. 

Non-lawyer members are Victoria A. Connor of York County, Gregory Cowhey of Philadelphia County, Keith W. Eckel of Lackawanna County, Melody A. Filicky of Fayette County, Edith M. Marino of Lycoming County and Matthew C. Woessner of Dauphin County. 

RATINGS DEFINITIONS


Highly Recommended: The candidate possesses the highest combination of legal ability, experience, integrity and temperament and would be capable of outstanding performance as a judge or justice of the court for which he/she is a candidate.

Recommended: Based on legal ability, experience, integrity and temperament, the candidate would be able to perform satisfactorily as a judge or justice of the court for which he/she is a candidate.

Not Recommended:  Based on legal ability, experience, integrity or temperament, or any combination thereof, at the present time, the candidate is inadequate to perform satisfactorily as a judge or justice of the court for which he/she is a candidate.
 
SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA

Justice Sallie Updyke Mundy
Rating: Highly Recommended

The candidate is presently serving on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, having been appointed in June 2016 to fill a vacancy. After receiving her law degree, she spent one year as a law clerk for a Tioga County Court of Common Pleas judge.  For the 10 years following her clerkship, she worked as an associate in firms doing insurance defense litigation, including the defense of professional malpractice claims. She then spent 10 years advocating in the courts for plaintiffs who were catastrophically injured by railroad accidents, defective products and medical malpractice. During the latter part of that time, she also worked as a volunteer public defender in Tioga County. In 2010, she was elected to the Pennsylvania Superior Court where she served with distinction until 2016. During her time as a trial lawyer and as a Superior Court judge, the candidate has expressed respect for the court, attorneys and non-lawyers. Her community service includes work for the PTO and service as a board member of a local charitable foundation. She has been a highly regarded member of both the Superior and Supreme courts. By all accounts, she is respected and liked by other members of both courts. She is well prepared and respectful of attorneys at oral argument and displays a clear understanding of the issues and the rights of the litigants whose cases come before her. Her opinions are clearly written and well reasoned. Because of the depth and diversity of her legal background, the devotion and hard work she has shown at all her endeavors, and her collegiality on the bench, the commission gives her its highest recommendation for her Supreme Court candidacy.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Judge Judith F. Olson
Rating: Highly Recommended

The candidate received her law degree in 1982, graduating cum laude and ranking second in her class. After clerking for a U.S. District Court judge, the candidate began private practice focusing on complex commercial litigation with an emphasis on directors’ and officers’ liability and securities and antitrust litigation. She worked in several large Pittsburgh firms handling matters in state and federal courts as well as before the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and U.S. Federal Trade Commission. The candidate’s extensive litigation experience also included appeals before the Pennsylvania appellate courts, federal courts of appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. In private practice, the candidate rapidly advanced from associate to partner before her appointment to the Allegheny Court of Common Pleas in 2008 where she served in the Civil Division. The candidate was elected in 2010 to the Pennsylvania Superior Court where she has authored published opinions on constitutional law, criminal, civil and family law. Her intellectual prowess is evident in hundreds of thorough and concisely written opinions. The candidate has a history of bar association involvement and nonprofit community service in addition to serving as a role model and mentor for youth. The candidate is known for being fair, respectful, open minded and willing to listen. The commission is confident the candidate’s vast professional experience, temperament and high ethical standards are a sound foundation for distinguished service and highly recommends her candidacy for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Judge Dwayne D. Woodruff
Rating: Recommended

Since 2005, the candidate has served as a judge of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas where he presides over family and juvenile matters. Upon completion of law school, he was an associate in a large Pittsburgh firm handling product liability and insurance defense. He quickly rose to a level of competence that allowed him to be lead counsel in major cases. He also worked as a certified National Football League player representative. In 1997, he founded his own law firm. He continued to represent professional athletes and handled real estate tax appeals, personal injury and debt collection cases. Most attorneys who appear before him in court describe him as being hard working, well prepared, polite, attentive, and respectful to litigants. The candidate has a strong work ethic and displays a deep respect for his role as a trial judge.  He eagerly learned the law in the Family Division, despite the fact that he had no prior experience in that area of the law. He was appointed a member to the Pennsylvania Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice, which was created by the Legislature to investigate the circumstances that lead to corruption in the juvenile court in Luzerne County. With few exceptions, his opinions have been described as clear and concise on appellate review and by attorneys. Throughout his career, he has actively participated in charitable organizations and has received multiple awards acknowledging his outstanding work on behalf of national and local community organizations. Because of his strong work ethic and unquestioned integrity, the commission recommends his candidacy for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

SUPERIOR COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA

William F. Caye II

Rating: Not Recommended

The candidate was admitted to the bar in 1994 and worked as a law clerk for a U.S. District Court judge. From 1995 to 1998, he was as an assistant district attorney. In late 1998 and 1999, the candidate was an associate at several law firms and performed work that primarily focused on criminal law and juvenile delinquency. Between 1999 and 2005, he was as a solo practitioner focusing on transactional and regulatory compliance law. From 2006 until 2015, he worked as a prosecutor in the Child Predator Unit in the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office. After working his way up to senior deputy attorney general, he left the Attorney General’s Office and returned to private practice.  
After reviewing the candidate’s record and based in part on his interview, the commission has concerns about the candidate’s presentation skills, his temperament, his inability to accurately recall events and his overall writing skills. Some attorneys who know him questioned his work ethic and judgment. During the interview, the candidate was evasive when responding to direct and pertinent questions. At times when pressed for answers, he raised his voice inappropriately. When questioned about past instances of his reported courtroom behavior, the candidate blamed the court and other counsel, failing to take any responsibility for his actions. This and other responses displayed a lack of professional maturity and raised questions about his temperament and collegiality.  The candidate also demonstrated an inadequate awareness about the Superior Court’s operations. For example, when asked about how he might change the court, he suggested that it should become less formal and more accommodating for postponements, less strict about time limits during oral argument and more accommodating to the litigants. When asked to reconcile how his suggestions would impact the court’s already heavy caseload, the candidate was unable to provide an intelligible answer.  With regard to his writing skills, the candidate’s responses to the questionnaire provided no indication that he has any cognizance of a formal writing style. The candidate’s other writing samples were also problematic, demonstrating a lack of ability to convey thoughts in a concise and clear manner.  

Based on all of the above, the commission does not recommend his candidacy for Superior Court.
Read the candidate’s questionnaire

Albert J. Flora
Rating: Recommended

The candidate has been an accomplished trial and appellate lawyer since 1976. He worked in the Office of General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, in solo practice, and as a public defender and criminal defense attorney.  His career has focused and specialized on criminal defense work and complex cases, including one for which he appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court.  In 2010, he became the chief public defender for Luzerne County, where he brought an action that required counties to provide adequate funding to ensure that all indigent clients received proper and adequate representation in the courts.  He also has broad experience in civil law, including education and labor law, complex civil litigation and personal injury work. The commission believes that the candidate has the strong intellect, work ethic, integrity, character and independence to serve on the Superior Court and recommends his candidacy.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Judge Emil A. Giordano
Rating: Highly Recommended

The candidate is an experienced jurist known for his high degree of professionalism, good judicial temperament and reputation for integrity. He is engaging, sincere, intelligent and affable. The candidate is collegial and has the ability to work with others who do not share his opinion or perspective. He has served as a common pleas court judge since 2004 and was retained for a second 10-year term in 2013.  He has a broad perspective and wide knowledge of the law, the rules of procedure and the rules of evidence because of his background and experience as a trial lawyer, prosecutor, public defender, municipal solicitor and a sitting judge. His opinions and legal writings are well reasoned. He gained experience addressing the office, personnel and fiscal needs of running a court while serving as an administrative judge for the Orphans' Court and Domestic Relations Section of the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas. The candidate volunteers in his community and teaches about legal topics at local educational institutions. He has demonstrated his commitment to legal and judicial ethics as a member of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Orphans' Court Procedural Rules Committee and Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges. Because of his broad experience as a practicing attorney, proven record of judicial leadership, high ethical standards and dedication to the legal profession, the commission is confident that the candidate would serve with distinction as a Superior Court judge and highly recommends his candidacy.  

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Judge Wade A. Kagarise
Rating: Recommended

Elected to the Blair County Court of Common Pleas in 2013, the candidate has presided over a variety of cases, including civil, criminal and family matters. Prior to his tenure on the court, the candidate was the chief deputy district attorney of Blair County on a part-time basis. The candidate also maintained a private litigation practice that focused on family, civil and labor law. Although the candidate has limited time on the bench, the attorneys who practice before him agree that he has developed a judicial demeanor that will serve him well on the appellate court. His opinions are delivered in a timely manner and are well written and researched. The commission believes that the candidate would perform satisfactorily on the Superior Court and recommends his candidacy.    

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Judge Deborah A. Kunselman
Rating: Highly Recommended

The candidate serves as an administrative judge for the Civil Division of the Beaver County Court of Common Pleas. Prior to her tenure on the court, she was a litigator practicing in a variety of areas, including family law and employment discrimination. From 1998 to 2005, she served as Beaver County solicitor. She was elected to the Court of Common Pleas in 2005. During her tenure on the bench, she has been responsible for a variety of judicial efficiencies, including clearing up a significant docket backlog. She was also responsible for the implementation of the Beaver County involuntary commitment program for minors requiring drug and alcohol treatment. Her colleagues describe her as professional, knowledgeable, fair and prepared. The candidate has a writing style that is clear and easy to follow. She has extensive community involvement and has taught courses for both professional and lay audiences. Because of her experience as a practicing attorney, extensive teaching experience, proven record of judicial leadership and strong dedication to improving the quality of justice, the commission is confident that the candidate would serve with distinction as a Superior Court justice and highly recommends her candidacy.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Judge Maria C. McLaughlin
Rating:  Recommended

The candidate has served as a family law judge on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas since 2012. After clerking for a Superior Court judge and graduating from law school in 1992, the candidate began her career with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, where she was assigned to the Child Support Enforcement Unit. In 2003 she was appointed chief of that unit. Since the writing samples she submitted are limited and narrow in scope, the commission is unable to thoroughly evaluate her legal writing skills. She is described as hard working, congenial, dedicated, practical and willing to do what it takes to learn what she needs to know. The candidate is commended as an excellent mentor and for her service to the community. She is noted for her patience and fairness to litigants and lawyers who appear before her. The commission believes she possesses the requisite ability to serve on the Superior Court and recommends her candidacy.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Judge H. Geoffrey Moulton Jr.
Rating: Highly Recommended

The candidate currently serves on the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, having been appointed and sworn into office in August 2016. Prior to his appointment, the candidate’s work history included extensive trial work. He served the commonwealth in the Governor’s Office of General Counsel and in the Office of the Attorney General. Additionally, the candidate’s work history includes the following: associate professor at the Widener School of Law; first assistant U.S. attorney at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Pennsylvania; deputy special inspector general and chief of staff at the Office of the Special Inspector General for Troubled Asset Relief; and chief counsel for U.S. Sen. Edward K. Kaufman. Earlier in his career, he served as a law clerk to Chief Judge Wilfred Feinberg of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and to U.S. Supreme Court Justice William H. Rehnquist. The candidate is highly regarded by those who have interacted with him, including colleagues, lawyers and law students. He has proven himself intelligent, well written, impartial and of the highest integrity. This commission believes that the candidate possesses the highest combination of legal ability, experience, integrity and temperament and, therefore, highly recommends his candidacy for the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Judge Carolyn H. Nichols 
Rating: Recommended

Before being elected to the bench, the candidate worked for the City of Philadelphia Law Department and the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation and maintained a solo legal practice predominantly performing employment law. In 2011, the candidate was elected to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, and since that time has exclusively overseen criminal matters. The candidate’s reputation among her colleagues is one of intelligence, conscientiousness and objectivity. She is known for high ethical standards. Her opinion and legal writings are well reasoned.  The commission initially had concerns that, as a consequence of reposting articles touching on social issues, it could appear as though the candidate were taking a public position on matters that might come before the court. When directly questioned on this issue, the candidate displayed respect for the commission’s concerns and was willing to re-examine her practice. In discussing the issue, the candidate demonstrated a commitment to impartiality and judicial temperament consistent with the highest standards required by the judiciary. Sensitive to the importance of maintaining impartiality, the candidate committed to personally monitor her social media posts during her campaign and to discontinue her use of social media if elected.  Based on the candidate’s strong reputation, experience and judicial temperament, the commission recommends the candidate to serve on the Superior Court. 

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Judge Paula A. Patrick
Rating: Highly Recommended

The candidate currently serves on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas where she has spent the last 14 years presiding over criminal, civil, family and, most recently, complex litigation matters. She has authored more than 400 legal opinions that demonstrate sound and reasonable legal analysis as well as legal expertise. The candidate thoughtfully administers justice according to the state and federal constitutions, believing that each citizen’s rights should be upheld. Known for her judicial efficiency, she does not have a backlog in her court. Prior to being elected to the bench in 2003, the candidate was a solo practitioner engaged in civil and criminal practice. In 2015, she was appointed acting city commissioner. The commission was impressed with the candidate’s sense of fairness and work ethic and her ability to be impartial and unbiased during several high profile cases. She demonstrates her commitment to the community through her volunteerism with several organizations, and she participates on state and national committees dedicated to professional development of members of the bench. She is well respected by both her peers on the bench and attorneys who come before her. Based upon the candidate’s intellect, work ethic, even-keeled temperament, sense of fairness and integrity, the commission highly recommends her candidacy for the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Judge Lillian Harris Ransom

Rating: Highly Recommended

The candidate was appointed to the Pennsylvania Superior Court in June 2016. Prior to her appointment, she diligently served on the Philadelphia Court of Common for 21 years presiding primarily over criminal and juvenile cases. Before her legal career, she was an educator, an experience that contributed to her ability to administer justice in a fair and balanced manner. As a member of the Superior Court, she continues to display her wealth of knowledge of legal principles and procedures, appropriate judicial temperament, a high level of integrity and sense of ethics, and judicial efficiency. She maintains an awareness of the impact of her decisions on the citizens of the commonwealth, which is evident in succinct and practical written opinions. The candidate has received numerous national and state awards for her contributions to the legal profession and education. The commission believes that, based on her knowledge, temperament and commitment to justice for all who appear before her, the candidate is capable of being an outstanding member of the Superior Court and highly recommends her candidacy.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Judge Carl A. Solano
Rating:  Highly Recommended

The candidate currently serves on the Pennsylvania Superior Court, having been appointed in June 2016.  Prior to his tenure on the court, he practiced law for 38 years, including 32 years as a partner in the litigation department of a large Philadelphia firm. He has handled appellate litigation in state and federal courts throughout the United States. His appellate experience has included several high-profile cases. He has handled numerous pro bono cases on behalf of poor and indigent clients, including one that set a new legal standard for the appointment of legal counsel for indigent civil litigants in federal court that is cited throughout the country. The candidate possesses high intellectual ability and talent as well as a strong work ethic, which is critical in addressing the high volume of cases presented to the Superior Court. His legal writing, both on the bench and in practice as an attorney, is clear, well reasoned, nuanced, sophisticated yet accessible. He has earned the respect of other judges of the Superior Court. His reputation in the legal community is unsurpassed, not only for his intellect but also for his integrity and professionalism. The candidate has the breadth of experience, intellect, work ethic and temperament to serve with distinction on the Pennsylvania Superior Court, and the commission highly recommends his candidacy.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Craig W. Stedman

Rating: Highly Recommended

The candidate is the current Lancaster County district attorney. He was elected to the position in 2007 after serving 17 years as an assistant attorney in that office in a variety of leadership roles. The candidate’s practice in the District Attorney’s Office has included the successful prosecution of a variety of crimes, including complex homicide and sexual abuse cases. The candidate has argued before the Superior Court on numerous occasions. As district attorney, the candidate sets the priorities and policies of the office, and, in the exercise of discretion, he exhibits fairness and a commitment to outreach, prevention and education. Under his leadership, the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office has implemented a variety of programs directed at addressing the current heroin epidemic. The commission was impressed with the candidate’s commitment to fairness and his even-keeled temperament, which he attributes to his training in the U.S. Army, where he achieved the rank of captain in military intelligence. While the candidate’s career has been primarily focused on criminal law, the commission is confident of his intellectual capabilities and the ability to transfer legal principles and reasoning to other areas of law required to serve on the Superior Court. The candidate has a strong history of community service in the Lancaster area, which has been primarily focused on crime and safety. Because of his intelligence, commitment to fairness and high ethical standards, the commission highly recommends the candidate for the Superior Court.  

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA

Rep. Bryan E. Barbin

Rating: Recommended

The candidate was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 2009 and currently serves as a member of the House Judicial Committee. He attended the University of Richmond and the University of Pittsburgh Law School. He began his career in 1982 as a judicial clerk for the Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. From 1983-1989, he was a deputy in the Tax and Finance Section of the Office of Attorney General. He transitioned into private practice in Dauphin and Cambria counties, primarily focusing on tax litigation. Since 2009, he has been of counsel at a Harrisburg law firm. In his practice, he serves as special tax counsel to municipalities, school districts and boards of assessment. The candidate is a member of several civic, social and charitable organizations. He was appointed to the Veterans Justice Statewide Task Force by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In the judgment of the commission, the candidate possesses the legal ability, experience, integrity and judicial temperament to serve as judge of the Commonwealth Court. The commission recommends his candidacy.

Read the  candidate’s questionnaire.

W. Timothy Barry 
Rating: Recommended

The candidate has a broad range of experience in the areas of domestic relations, real estate, corporate, trusts and estates, municipal law, and labor and employment law. During his 37-year career, the candidate has been a law clerk and a partner in various small firms. He is currently a solo practitioner and serves as an arbitrator for the Pennsylvania Bureau of Mediation. The candidate has tried numerous labor arbitrations and has tried cases to verdict in both state and federal courts. He also has appeared before the Pennsylvania Commonwealth and Supreme courts, as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. He is highly regarded and has a long history of pro bono and community service. He has demonstrated a strong work ethic, professionalism and fairness in his interactions with clients and colleagues. The candidate is known for his integrity, knowledge of law and competence. The commission believes that the candidate will perform satisfactorily as a judge of the Commonwealth Court and recommends his candidacy.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon
Rating: Highly Recommended

The candidate has since 2012 served as a judge on the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas where she heads the civil trial section overseeing both civil and equity matters. At the same time, she has served as pretrial judge, responsible for deciding more than 800 motions and petitions. Having graduated from law school with honors, the candidate has continued her legal scholarship by lecturing extensively throughout the commonwealth on various areas of law. The candidate's legal writing is clear, concise and thorough. Her courtroom demeanor has earned the respect of her colleagues as well as that of the attorneys and litigants who appear before her. The candidate's extensive civic activities add depth to her illustrious legal career. The commission believes that the candidate would perform admirably as a judge on the Commonwealth Court and highly recommends her candidacy.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Judge Ellen H. Ceisler
Rating: Recommended

The candidate has been a judge on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas for nine years. During her first five years, she handled criminal trials. She was then assigned to civil motions and more recently to major civil trials. The candidate has a thorough knowledge of the rules of evidence and courtroom procedures. Prior to her being elected to the bench in 2007, she had a diverse work background, including experience as a prosecutor, investigative producer and litigator. She has served as director of the Integrity and Accountability Office of the Philadelphia Police Department and legal adviser to the Sheriff's Office of Philadelphia. Her judicial temperament is one of fairness, thoroughness, independence and integrity. The candidate has administrative experience, which she gained from serving with the Philadelphia City Controllers' Office as a director of the Special Investigations and Fraud Unit. The commission recommends the candidate for the Commonwealth Court.
   
Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Irene McLaughlin Clark
Rating: Not Recommended

After graduating from law school, the candidate has been employed in a variety of positions handling civil litigation and divorce and custody proceedings. In 1993, the candidate was appointed to the Pittsburgh Municipal Court, where she continued to serve until 2003. Since that time, the candidate served in a variety of positions and maintained a private law practice addressing the problem of municipal blight.  Although the candidate’s record demonstrates a commitment to justice and a strong work ethic, she has minimal experience that would lend itself to an appellate court position. The candidate has little courtroom experience as an advocate.  Her experience with the rules of evidence and courtroom procedure is limited to the time she served as a Pittsburgh magistrate and Housing Court judge. The candidate candidly admitted that she had very limited experience as a trial or appellate advocate and no experience in writing briefs or opinions. This indicates to the commission that her exposure within the legal system is very narrow.  Given the candidate’s minimal experience as outlined above, the commission does not recommend her candidacy for the Commonwealth Court.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Judge Joseph M. Cosgrove
Rating:  Highly Recommended

The candidate currently serves on the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, having been appointed by the governor in June 2016. He previously served as a judge on the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas, as chief counsel to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and as counsel to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts. He has also maintained a private practice as a solo practitioner and served as an assistant public defender. During his career, he was primarily a trial attorney in both criminal and civil litigation matters. He also has extensive experience arguing before appellate courts. The candidate possesses solid knowledge of legal principles and procedure. He displays the ability to write in a clear and concise manner indicating his grasp of legal issues. The candidate is held in high esteem for his ethics and dedication to the legal profession. He has excelled in all aspects of his personal and professional life and has been an exemplary citizen, as well as an exceptional lawyer and judge with good judicial temperament. The commission is confident that the candidate will continue to serve with distinction on the Commonwealth Court and highly recommends his candidacy.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

James C. Crumlish III
Rating: Highly Recommended

The candidate has a long and distinguished legal career. While still a law student, he was admitted to the limited practice of law under Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules to serve in the Philadelphia City Law Department’s Appeals and Special Litigation Division.  After completing law school in 1982, the candidate served as general counsel of the Philadelphia Parking Authority and opened a solo law practice.  During his 30-plus year career, the candidate has focused primarily on complex commercial litigation and health care law and has represented both plaintiffs and defendants. The candidate also has served extensively as an arbitration panelist to resolve business torts and contract disputes. The candidate has trial experience in both federal and state courts, including the Commonwealth Court, and many jurisdictions outside
Pennsylvania. Given the complex nature of the litigation matters he handles, the candidate’s writing samples are considered in-depth, well written, thoughtful, thorough and persuasive. The candidate is well-respected by his colleagues and members of the bench, who describe him as scholarly and able to consider and articulate multi-dimensional arguments. Members of the bar and bench say he is even tempered and exhibits fairness, courtesy, respect and an unwavering commitment to justice and equity. The candidate has a long history of public service, pro bono commitment and volunteer community service. Based on its investigation and interview of the candidate, the commission highly recommends his candidacy for a seat on the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

R. Todd Eagen
Rating: Recommended

Throughout his career as an attorney, the candidate has been held in high regard by his peers who commend his fairness, industrious work ethic and collegiality. Following graduation from law school, the candidate served as a law clerk to a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Since that time, the candidate has been in private practice with various law firms, focusing on labor and employment law and representing public sector unions with an emphasis on law enforcement unions. The candidate’s writings are clear and concise, and his knowledge of the law is above average. He has a wealth of experience before the Commonwealth Court and extensive experience as an arbitrator in public sector labor disputes. The candidate has participated in local bar association activities and presently serves the community in church activities. Based on his strong intellect, fairness and work ethic, the commission recommends the candidate for the Commonwealth Court.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Paul N. Lalley
Rating:  Recommended

Throughout his career as an attorney, the candidate has been held in high regard by his colleagues who describe him as being forthright, intelligent, collegial, scholarly, well prepared and a gentleman. After graduation from law school in 1996, he served as a clerk to a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice and has since been in private practice. He has primarily represented public sector clients in labor and employment matters before state and federal courts and administrative agencies. He also has extensive experience in labor arbitrations and fact-finding hearings and negotiating collective bargaining agreements. He has demonstrated dedication to the improvement of the quality of justice through his extensive lecturing and course planning experience and presentations to statewide organizations, municipalities and school boards. Based upon the candidate’s legal ability, temperament and awareness of the importance of the rule of law, the commission recommends him for the Commonwealth Court.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Kenneth J. Suter
Rating: Recommended

The candidate currently serves as the senior prosecutor-in-charge for the Pennsylvania Department of State. In this capacity, he supervises prosecuting attorneys litigating cases before various professional licensing boards and commissions. Throughout his legal career, he has handled numerous matters before the Commonwealth Court. He has demonstrated sufficient legal ability, work ethic and temperament to earn the respect of his colleagues. The candidate has a strong record of community involvement in various nonprofit civic organizations and his church. The commission believes the candidate possesses the requisite legal ability, experience, and character to perform satisfactorily as a judge on the Commonwealth Court and recommends his candidacy.  

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Matthew L. Wolford
Rating: Highly Recommended

For more than 30 years, the candidate has been litigating on behalf of and in opposition to agencies of the commonwealth, including more than 26 years of litigating all aspects of environmental law in both civil and criminal court at the trial and appellate court levels.  Between 1987 and 1999, the candidate has held positions at the Office of Attorney General and the Department of Environmental Protection in Philadelphia and Meadville. In those positions, he litigated on behalf of the commonwealth and supervised commonwealth agency offices. Since 1999, he has been engaged in private practice, concentrating in environmental counseling and representing private individuals and legal entities. He is highly regarded for his work ethic, preparation, common sense, fairness, integrity, prompt and efficient performance, and legal expertise in the environmental area. His writings are clear and concise. He is considered to be evenly balanced between the needs for development of natural resources and the protection of the environment and the needs for government regulation and protection of individual property rights. He has been an adjunct college professor and a frequent lecturer to both legal and nonlegal organizations. He has been active in the bar association and community organizations. Based upon his intellect and extensive experience in issues that come before the Commonwealth Court, the commission highly recommends his candidacy for Commonwealth Court.

Read the candidate’s questionnaire.

Founded in 1895, the Pennsylvania Bar Association exists to promote justice, professional excellence and respect of the law; improve public understanding of the legal system; facilitate access to legal services; and serve the 27,000 lawyers who are members of the association. 

Editor’s note: Additional information about the PBA JEC can be found on the PBA website, www.pabar.org, and the association’s voter information website, www.pavotesmart.org